|That Home I Find Outside Your Door
Author: Queen of the Castle PM
There are lifetimes' worth of grand adventures, incredible far-off places and endless running for his life stored away inside his head. She's just not sure how much of it is his. Rose/Ten AURated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Drama - Rose T. & 10th Doctor - Chapters: 2 - Words: 16,574 - Reviews: 18 - Favs: 47 - Follows: 7 - Published: 03-03-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7892335
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Notes: This fic is AU. How AU, you may ask? I'll leave that up to you to decide.
Even at an early age, living on the Powell Estate meant that Rose Tyler had certainly had her fair share of run-ins with the homeless people that often scattered around the surrounding neighbourhood. Regardless of what everyone else told her, for the most part she'd always thought they seemed fairly harmless; generally they tended to act more lonely than dangerous.
She'd assumed the widespread misconception that they were bad people was why they weren't provided with the option of cheap housing like she and her Mum were, and she couldn't help but be annoyed on their behalf because of that. She'd even marched right up to a passing police officer to complain about just that, but he'd merely smiled indulgently at her and told her the police service wasn't in charge of that sort of thing. Rose had huffed all the way up the stairs to their flat, figuring that he was obviously just fobbing her off because he thought she was nothing more than some silly kid who didn't deserve a straight answer. After all, pretty much all of the older kids and adults she knew always seemed so sure that everything bad that happened in the world came down to the police. And someone named John Major, apparently, though Rose didn't know who that was.
Well, she figured, even if neither the police nor the people living comfortably around them seemed to care, she was still going to be nice to those unfortunate enough not to have a place in the world. Shareen once hadn't talked to her for a whole week, so she knew what it was like to have no friends. No one should have to go through that purely by virtue of their circumstances.
Unfortunately, one day after school Rose's Mum caught her sitting cross-legged on the footpath just a little ways down from the Estate's main courtyard. She was sharing the remainder of her packed lunch and chatting happily away with a scruffy man who looked (to her young eyes at least) like he must have been at least a hundred years old, and who even Rose had to admit smelled about five times worse than their full dirty laundry basket at home. She'd had to suffer through quite the screaming session from her Mum about that, as if she'd actually done something wrong by helping someone who needed it. Though Rose really didn't get what the big deal was, she had been forced to weigh up whether continuing to go out of her way to be friendly to what her Mum called 'those weirdo drifters' was worth a repeat of the unleashing of the wrath of Jackie Tyler. Her Mum could be seriously scary, after all.
She hated that the idea of being so easily beaten; she was stubborn that way. She also couldn't stand the thought that she might not ever get to satisfy her curiosity about what it was like to have a bus stop as a house, or whether you could actually make enough money by begging or illegal busking to be able to eat three square meals a day (plus dessert, since Rose couldn't conceive of anyone being able to survive if they missed out on that with any regularity), or where someone without a roof stashed their Christmas tree and presents when December rolled around.
So Rose would have, in pointed defiance of her mother, sought out old Jim or one of the others that hung out on her street the very next day to tell them she'd still hang out with him as much as she liked no matter what anyone said. Only her mother had insisted on picking her up directly from school rather than letting her walk that few hundred feet home on her own. And she'd done the same the next day, and the next. Rose had been well aware of the reason for this sudden change in their schedule, of course, and she'd made sure to bestow foul glares and the silent treatment on her Mum for quite some time before she got bored and forgot what she was supposed to be doing.
Being only eight years old, she was easily bored, and out of sight tended to mean out of mind. So, without being reminded by exposure to any of the homeless people lurking outside the Estate for the next week or two, she promptly deserted her spirited campaign in favour of taking up her new impossible task of the moment: convincing her Mum to buy her a kitten for her upcoming birthday.
She never did notice her mother's palpable relief over what she'd clearly considered to be a potential disaster being averted.
Wake up. Bolt down a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Have a shower and get dressed. Jump on the bus to work. Put up with hours of customers and managers ranting about stupid things like how the hanger on this top claimed it was a size 8 but the swing tag clearly said it was a size 10. Cross the street to knock back a relatively quick lunch at Barty's Fish 'n Chips. Come back for more abuse from the customers and managers until that blessed announcement that the store was closing in five minutes sounded. Head home for a bit of telly, or maybe head back out to grab a pint down at the pub with Mickey, before going to bed, either hers or his depending on whether she was in the mood. Lather, rinse and repeat.
It was a truly mind-numbing routine for the most part. For a while after she'd made the decision not to go back to school because she needed the money from full time work to pay off her debts, she'd been hoping that something else – anything, really – would come along to whisk her out of that life. However, long enough had passed by now that she'd almost forgotten that dream. Though she still found that, as dull as the life she'd mostly settled into was, she didn't like to focus on the idea that it really might be all there was out there for her. She couldn't help but want so much more.
It was little wonder, then, that Rose strolled through a good portion of her day with her head in the clouds, thinking of bigger things that she was sure she'd never get to personally experience. It never occurred to her that consistently having her mind elsewhere meant that it wasn't focused on smaller but still important things.
Like, just for example, the car that clearly was going far too fast to be intending to stop at the well-displayed zebra crossing she and several other oblivious pedestrians were in the process of stepping onto.
A hand grabbed hers and yanked her backwards. A scream caught in her throat before it could ever be heard as she saw the couple who'd been walking barely two feet in front of her leap forward and just barely avoid being run down. She wouldn't have made that jump even if she'd seen the car coming, she realised. She'd have been directly in the car's path.
She squeezed the hand that was still holding onto her as if seeking some kind of support or confirmation. She barely heard it when some concerned passer-by asked her if she was all right, simply nodding absently and thanking her for asking. She finally blinked and was able to look away from that spot where she would have been standing right as the collision took place, turning instead to scrutinise the person who'd prevented that from happening.
"Hello," he said cheerfully, shaking the hand that he was still holding as if nothing strange had taken place and they just happened to be meeting casually.
"Um... Hi?" she replied uncertainly. "I'm Rose Tyler."
"Rose," he repeated definitively, as if committing the name to memory, or maybe just feeling it out in his mouth to figure out if he liked it or not. "Nice to finally meet you. You work in the shop just over there, don't you, Rose? I see you around here a lot. I've noticed that you don't usually use the designated crossing to get to the other side of the street, though, which is really a bit foolhardy of you. Although it's funny that one of the only times you do happens to be the time that you encounter a serious traffic violation, isn't it?" he remarked.
Somehow his peculiar behaviour had her feeling almost more shaken than the near miss itself. "Funny?" echoed Rose. "I... You just saved my life," she said slowly, spelling it out for him. "You know that, right? That you just did somethin' heroic? You get that I'd be all dead and splattered on the road if not for you, yeah?"
"Oh, that," he said dismissively. "It's what I do. Well, what I try to do. Except when I can't. Can't save everyone all the time, though there really should be more days like that."
"Um," Rose said, feeling increasingly more bewildered by the second. "I'm sorry about that."
"Me too," he replied. "So sorry."
He frowned down suddenly at their still-joined hands as if he couldn't remember grabbing onto her, though regardless he didn't seem like he particularly intended to drop that contact between them any time soon.
"Are you okay?" she asked, well aware of the irony of her having to be the one to pose that question given the situation.
He looked up and gave her just about the saddest smile she'd ever seen in her life. Her chest felt strangely compressed at the sight of it, as if the car had hit her after all and her lungs were now crushed and useless. "Oh, I'm always all right," he assured her. "I'm not the one who's going about skipping across busy streets without looking both ways."
"Yeah, guess not. And oh," Rose realised suddenly, "I haven't even actually said 'thank you' for that yet! I'm sorry. My head's all sort of wobbly after nearly bein' knocked clean off my shoulders. Thank you. Really. Can I buy you lunch or somethin'? To say thank you properly, I mean? How d'you feel about chips?"
The man seemed to think quite hard about that. "You know," he concluded, "I'm actually not sure how I feel about them, now that you've brought it up. Is there I certain way I should feel? Only chips have never really been the kind of thing to evoke any emotional response for me personally."
Rose laughed, which instantaneously sent an answering smile across the man's face like some kind of chain reaction. "I actually meant whether you liked eatin' them," she said, snickering.
"Ah. Right. Well that makes a lot more sense," the man said, not looking embarrassed in the slightest. "Yes, I'm fairly sure I do. Though it's been a while, I think. When you've been alive as long as I have, it's difficult to keep track of little things like what you've eaten recently and such."
Rose decided that he couldn't have been older than mid-thirties, and he looked younger still when he smiled. That made him older than her, sure, but still hardly ancient. "So how old are you, exactly?"
"Nine hundred and..." He looked off into the distance, seeming to be in the middle of some complicated calculation. "... three," he finished. "Relatively speaking, of course. It really depends on what part of the universe or what timeframe I'm in at any given moment, since most planets have completely different cycle lengths. You should see how long it takes the planet Gofflop to revolve around its sun! I still wouldn't even be a whole year old there."
"Sorry, Gofflop? I don't think I've heard of that one. I guess it's out somewhere past Pluto?" Rose asked, unsure how else to respond since she honestly had no idea whether he was joking around with her.
"A very long way past it. And I wouldn't have expected you to have heard of it," he said, nodding sagely. "It won't actually being to form for another several billion years."
Rose couldn't stop her disbelieving laugh, though she quickly attempted to cover it by asking, "So you're a psychic, then?"
He looked at her like she was being purposely stupid. "Come on, really? A psychic? Of course not!" he laughed, and Rose joined in. "No," he added seriously. "I don't do shoddy guesswork for money. I just know what's going to happen because I'm a time travelling alien and I've seen it. But, then, I probably shouldn't have told you that. You can't tell anyone!"
Rose nodded slowly. "Oh. Right... Yeah, trust me, I don't think I'll be spreadin' that one around any time soon. Wouldn't want anyone from the government comin' and takin' you off to do weird experiments on you or anythin', would we?"
He nodded earnestly. "Thankfully there are only certain things that humans can do to permanently hurt me without me just regenerating, but it's still definitely annoying when they get it in their heads to prod at me like I'm an animal. Yet every couple of decades, there they go again, as if their predecessors hadn't already learned that lesson." He sighed. "You lot just can't seem to help yourselves."
"Hey, not my lot!" Rose protested. "Don't lump me into some big conspiracy group or somethin'. Personally, I'm all for... um, alien rights." She felt stupid just saying those words, but he seemed pleased by it, so she supposed it was worth playing along.
"Good! Great! Brilliant!" he exclaimed. "You know, I always did think you looked like the kind to be accepting, but it's hard to tell that for sure about people who you've never actually spoken to. I've been caught out before."
Rose narrowed her eyes at him. "Look, you keep talkin' like you know me, but I don't remember you. D'you shop at Henrik's a lot or somethin'?"
"Oh, never. This regeneration really doesn't do department stores and shopping. It's all so boring! But I park my vehicle out on this street every day. That's how I see you going for lunch. Fish and chips every day."
"Every day? Seriously? So I'm guessin' you don't have a job you need to be at," Rose speculated. "What, d'you work nights or somethin'?"
"Sometimes," he said. "My job's not the kind to keep to certain hours."
"Oh, so you're on call? Doin' what?"
"I told you already, Rose. My job is saving people."
"Right... guess that's kind of a full time occupation?" Rose said.
He grinned. "You have no idea. You humans can't seem to stop getting yourselves in trouble, and then there's the rest of the universe besides! If I didn't come here to take a bit of a time-out every day, I'd never stop!"
"And how is it that you manage to be here at the same time every day, then?" asked Rose sceptically. "Surely there must be all kinds of savin'-people emergencies that come up at short notice."
"Oh, that's the beauty of time travel," he explained simply, as if it should be obvious. "I can fly around time and space for years and be back here just five seconds after I left. You should come with me. I could show all kinds of brilliant things."
"Nah," Rose said, smiling. "Not today, anyway. My lunch break's about to run out, and you can just bet my boss won't take the trauma of nearly gettin' hit by a car as an excuse for comin' back to work late."
"That's all right," he said. "I'll be here tomorrow, if you change your mind."
"S'pose I'll see have to wait until then to see you again, won't I?" Rose said.
She briefly eyed the shop across the street for a moment, wondering whether she still had time to race across there and grab something to go before she was firmly into the being-taken-out-back-and-yelled-at territory of lateness, but she decided against it. Better not to tempt fate by crossing that street again so soon after attempting to do so had nearly put her in the hospital, or worse. She figured she could make it until dinner without dying of hunger.
Before she turned to head back to the store, though, she said to the man, "Hang on there, I never did get your name. Though I s'pose it could be cool to tell people I was saved from death by some nameless man. I could even tell them you were wearin' a mask and a cape!"
"All that does sort of suit me, I'll give you that," the man agreed. "But in case you really do want my name, I'm the Doctor," he said.
"The doctor," Rose repeated. "The doctor of what, exactly?"
"Of everything," he said cheekily. "I'm not a medical doctor or anything, if that's what you mean, though I'm smarter than most of them put together. It's my name, Rose. Just 'the Doctor'. That's me."
"Seriously? 'The doctor' is an actual name now? Let me guess, it's with a capital 'the'?"
"No," he scoffed. "That'd be a bit pretentious, don't you think? A whole capitalised word as part of my name? Imagine how it would look in writing. Though it does have a capital 'd', in case you were wondering."
"'Course it does," she muttered.
"Weren't you running late?" he reminded her. "Not that I'm trying to get rid of you or anything. I'm really not. At all. You can feel free to stay! I mean, if you liked. And if you wanted to lose your job, I suppose."
"Yeah, better not," she said. "I'm broke enough as it is."
"Mmm, I know how that is," he said cryptically.
"S'pose that means the chips'll be on me tomorrow, then," Rose said. She poked her tongue out at him as she turned away.
To be honest, she thought as she practically ran back into the store, slinking around the backs of the taller displays until she arrived back in her designated section so that no one would see her coming back in late, she really didn't expect him to be there tomorrow at all. He'd obviously been feeding her crazy stories so that he didn't have to tell her anything real. She'd done that sort of thing with guys in the pub who wouldn't take a hint, so she knew it meant he couldn't actually be interested in seeing her again. It had just been a fun way to spend her lunch time, and a way to calm her down after something crazy had nearly happened. She'd be stupid to expect anything more to come of it.
But still, she couldn't help but kind of hope she was wrong.
As Rose emerged from the relatively dim interior of Henrik's, for once she didn't head straight across the street for lunch. Instead, she paused midway across the footpath, squinting against the sunlight and peering around to see if the Doctor actually was there, as he'd promised he would be.
At first she didn't see any sign of him. She had to admit that she was strangely disappointed even though she'd predicted as much. He might have been a bit weird – practically incomprehensible in a lot of ways, to be honest – but he was definitely interesting. She couldn't say that about many other things in her life at the moment.
Besides, if nothing else, he was certainly nice to look at. She might have Mickey, but that didn't stop her from wanting to spend her lunchtime somewhere with a pleasant view after a hard morning's work. It was just like art; look but don't touch.
She pointedly didn't think about the very specific touch of his hand in hers. Given the expedient circumstances, she really didn't think that should count against her. No matter how nice it had felt.
Finally, when she'd been just about to give up on him completely, she caught a glimpse of a familiar brown-and-blue out of the corner of her eye. Her heart rate increased when she saw that he was there after all.
The Doctor was sprawled across the blue wooden public bench just up the street. He had his feet kicked up with a light brown coat and a flimsy-looking old plastic bag rolled up underneath his legs. She thought he looked strangely at home, sitting there like that, and she was no longer surprised that he'd seen her in passing any number of times before yesterday. He clearly spent a lot of time hanging out right there on that bench.
"Hello again, stranger," she greeted loudly as she approached him. His gaze shot up to meet hers and he grinned, seeming about equally as relieved to see her again as she was that he'd also returned. "I owe you chips, don't I?"
"Absolutely! I've been looking forward to trying them out," he admitted. "I've decided that they must be brilliant chips to have you coming back for more every single day."
"Trust me, you'll end up beggin' to have lunch with me every day so's you can get more of them as well," Rose teased, offering him a hand up and waiting for a moment as he slung his long coat over his shoulder before leading him across the street (this time being certain to look both ways twice).
For the following twenty minutes or so he barely stopped chattering away faster than she'd suspected any human being could actually talk, except when he was quickly shovelling chips into his mouth as if he hadn't eaten in days.
In that time, Rose learned a lot more than she'd ever known could exist in one man's head about logic-defying planets that were supposedly halfway across the universe from Earth, and about spatio-temporal anomalies, and even about why, precisely, giraffes were the only animal to occur in every life-supporting galaxy across the universe at some point in history or another (though he was very careful to point out that they weren't always specifically called 'giraffes', and proceeded to go through a rather hilarious list of their alternate names that made Rose decide that she was, in the future, simply going to have to insist on calling them 'neffleplonks', if only to see other people's reactions when she explained why).
More importantly, though, Rose learned a little something about the man behind the myth that – contrary to what Rose had previously assumed about him intending to just joke around with her – even he himself somehow seemed to actually believe in.
She'd certainly seen enough to know that she wanted to know more.
With a few minutes to spare before her break ended, she'd happily followed him right back to the same blue bench that he'd left behind, slightly surprised to find that no one had taken up sitting on it in his absence. Almost as if it was waiting for him, she thought, especially when she saw how he just seemed to inherently belong when he sat back down on it.
Seeing him settle into place once more, almost seeming to become an established part of the chair, something made Rose take a mental step back so that she could really see the situation.
Oh, she thought. Oh.
No longer being completely rattled from having kamikaze cars target her like yesterday, she found that she could actually think, and that everything made a little more sense and fit together more obviously. She finally took in the Doctor's whole appearance, from the worn plimsolls to the seriously rumpled suit and the hair that didn't look like it had been brushed in a very long time. It really wasn't a bad look, Rose had to admit – quite the opposite. That was obviously part of the reason why, until that very moment, she hadn't put it together with his disconnection with reality, his apparent lack of any kind of real job, and his unfailing presence in the same place every day, to come to the obvious conclusion.
He was homeless.
She didn't even realise she'd spoken the word aloud until he nodded and said, "You could say that. It's been a while since I've had a planet to call my own."
"I'm sorry," Rose said, suddenly flustered. "I didn't mean to... I dunno, rub it in, or make it out to be somethin' terrible, or whatever. I just didn't realise before, is all."
"It's all right," the Doctor said with a forgiving smile. "I've had a lot of time to get used to it."
Rose frowned. "But why? I can tell you're a smart guy. Crazy smart. You've said it yourself, even. You could easily do any kind of job you liked. So is just gettin' used to things bein' like this really the best thing, when you could obviously do so much better?"
"Why is different automatically better?" the Doctor asked, posing it more like a philosophical question than something that had actual bearing on his situation.
"What, you think this here is the best you can do?" Rose asked, looking around the street with obvious derision. "Look, c'mon, you could find somewhere just to try things out to see if you do wanna go for a change," Rose offered. "No harm in that. I think there's even a YMCA just a few streets down that way. I could show you. I'm not a hundred percent certain how it works, exactly, so you'd have to ask, but I think they'd give you a bed for a bit while they helped you get yourself set up somewhere more permanent. If that was what you decided you wanted, obviously."
"Oh no, I don't think so," he said quickly. "Not me. Especially since other people need those beds."
"Don't you as well, though?"
"Of course not," the Doctor said. "I do have a place, you see. You might not think so, but it's really much better than some tiny set of closed-in rooms with walls and doors and carpets! I don't really like houses," he summed up with a shiver.
Rose shook her head. "Why not? What's wrong with them?"
He was silent for quite a while, as if he was considering whether to actually answer her or not. When he finally whispered, "They burn," a shiver ran down Rose's back despite the warmth of the day.
Rose didn't know what to say to that. The conversation suddenly felt completely out of place in the middle of a day that was remarkably sunny for this time of year while they were surrounded by hundreds of relatively carefree chattering shoppers.
Whatever Rose had been thinking in the back of her mind about his mad stories, or upon figuring out the truth about his homelessness – whatever she might possibly have retained in the back of her mind from the many things her Mum had drilled into her head over the years, supposedly to keep her safe – all flew out the window then. He'd clearly been through something truly terrible. If he had to sleep on a bench and come up with wild tales of adventure where he was a time-travelling alien who could save all kinds of people who needed his help in order to cope with whatever it was that he'd hadn't been able to save himself from... well, she could hardly fault him for that.
She wished she could apologise again and again for prompting that heartbreaking tone in his voice, but she somehow doubted that it would help him for her to dwell on it.
"Anyway," the Doctor said in a rush, obviously eager to change the topic, "I don't need a permanent home, so that's that. Unless..." He squinted at her thoughtfully. "Unless you have a problem with spending time with someone like me? I know that some humans have strange hang-ups that way. Is that it?"
Rose, as a young girl, had never been one of those people. She'd always just wanted to be friends with everyone, and insisted that being homeless or poor (she certainly knew what the latter was like) didn't stop someone from being a good person, or mean that they should be avoided or mocked. She'd certainly grown up a lot since then, but there were some things that she didn't think she'd ever grow out of. She wasn't even sure that she wanted to, in this case.
The last thing she wished to do was stop spending time with the Doctor now, having only just barely scratched the surface of how easily he could take her out of her otherwise dull life and show her amazing, practically magical things. Just like he'd promised her he could do the day before, she realised, though perhaps it wasn't quite in the far more literal way he'd obviously meant it.
She smiled and said. "Of course not. No problems here. In fact, I think we should make this whole lunch business a regular thing."
"Every day?" the Doctor asked hopefully.
"I'm only at work on the weekdays," Rose reminded.
"Oh, right, of course," the Doctor agreed swiftly. "Just as well. Sundays are rubbish."
"Yeah," Rose said. "So I'll see you tomorrow, then?"
He reached out and briefly squeezed her hand. "Definitely," he promised.
Though she wrote it off as her imagination, she couldn't help but notice later that her right hand, where their skin had touched, seemed to tingle warmly for the remainder of the work day.
It took no time at all for Rose to get used to now having a bright spot in the middle of her day that didn't feel at all like part of a routine, for all that it happened the same time every day. Suddenly even the parts of her day that were still monotonous didn't seem quite so bad, as he pried stories about angry customers and even slow nights at the pub out of her and created strange and often hilarious commentary on it all.
"Who's Mickey?" he asked when she mentioned him thoughtlessly when telling the Doctor her plans for that night.
"Oh, you know," she said a little too carelessly to be quite believable. "Just a bloke. Um, my bloke, I guess."
"Ah," the Doctor said. For the first time since their daily tradition of going for chips together had first kicked off, there was a long, awkward silence between them. The Doctor pulled his hand away from hers under the table and used it to forcefully spear a chip into a small mountain of sauce, practically obliterating it into unrecognisable potato chunks as he did so.
She had no idea why she should feel so embarrassed suddenly. It wasn't wrong for her to have a boyfriend, after all, or to talk casually about him with a friend. That knowledge, however, did nothing to make the feeling disappear.
Rose found she heavily anticipated seeing him again the following day to make sure that things between them hadn't been somehow ruined. Thankfully, by then he was back to being all toothy smiles and overactive tongue, as if nothing weird had ever happened.
Unfortunately, her focus on seeing the Doctor meant that she'd forgotten completely about meeting Mickey at Trafalgar Square for lunch on Thursdays, just as they'd done for months and months since Mickey first started working at the garage. She'd had to tell him later, when he'd asked where she'd been, that her manager had switched around her lunch hour that day with another of the girl's without telling her in advance.
"What a cow. You should really tell her what's what," Mickey advised.
"Yeah, I guess I should," Rose said half-heartedly.
She hated lying, honestly she did, but she really didn't think that Mickey would understand if she told him she'd just plain forgotten about him, blowing him off so that she could have lunch with some other man instead.
She told the Doctor the next day about breaking her plans with Mickey and thought, for just a second, that she might have caught the slightest look of satisfaction passing over his face. Of course, it was gone in the very next moment, if it had ever been there in the first place, so Rose figured that she was probably just imagining things. Maybe the Doctor was a bit catching that way. If so, she didn't particularly mind.
She found that she missed him on the weekend. It hadn't been as noticeable when those two days had passed without his presence a week ago, but she'd been still getting used to their new daily meetings then. Now she really felt those two whole days where she wasn't able to not-so-covertly snag his chips from across the table and claim that it was because food had no calories when it was someone else's (and hear him say, each and every time, that that wasn't something that she really had to worry about).
She spent the middle of Sunday – trying not to think to herself that 'Sundays are rubbish' – with Mickey instead, and they ate pub food instead of chips so that she could enjoy it with some slight chance of not making comparisons. When Mickey reached for her hand under the table, though, Rose quickly pulled it away and brought it up to her mouth, faking a cough to wordlessly explain her action.
She didn't want to think too hard about the real reason, after all.
"Miss me?" Rose asked as she bounded over to the Doctor at the start of her lunch break on Monday.
"Well, yes," he admitted, "but no more than an any other day. I mean, obviously I just skipped past the weekend. I only stick around for the good bits, you see. That's one of the many perks of being me."
"Right," Rose said. "You jumped time. In your time machine. And... so you don't remember any of the weekend? At all? Not even vague flashes or anythin'?"
He looked bemused. "What's to remember? I wasn't actually here for it."
"Yeah," she said, rolling her eyes. "Obviously. What was I thinkin'? Silly me."
She didn't bring up his lost time again, and he was too busy regaling her with tales of his recent daring defeat of some alien race with a name she couldn't even pronounce to really remember her even asking about it in the first place.
But that night Rose stared through the window into the darkness and worried about what might be happening to him out there in the night while he was lying on his bench, all spaced out and too caught up in his own overwhelming imagination to take proper notice of any real dangers lurking nearby. Anything could happen to him in that state. Anything.
"All right there, sweetheart?" her Mum asked her when she walked past Rose's doorway quite late in the night only to see her daughter still wide awake and staring sightlessly out into nothingness. She didn't look quite as worried as Rose felt, but it was a close thing.
"I'm fine," Rose said half-heartedly.
"Oh, I know that look. Man troubles. What's himself done now?"
Rose sighed. "Nothin', Mum. Really nothin'. Mickey's been good. Like I said, everythin's just fine."
Her Mum didn't look convinced by that in the slightest, but she did leave Rose alone to stress in solitude for the rest of the night.
She took an earlier bus than usual so that she could stop and check on the Doctor before work, knowing that this was likely to be yet another permanent change to her daily line-up; now that she'd realised just how serious the danger might be, she was just as likely to worry about him the next night, and the next.
When the Doctor commented on how lucky it was that he happened to land the TARDIS earlier that morning than he usually did, for otherwise he would have missed her surprise visit, Rose just answered, "Yeah. Unbelievably lucky."
She eventually forced herself to walk away from him towards the side door employees had to use to get into Henrik's prior to the store opening. But even knowing that she'd see him again in just a few hours for lunch, she found that she wanted to leave his side even less than usual.
Rose was the last one out the front door of Henrik's on Friday evening, having been forced to run back and grab her forgotten mobile phone at the last second. She sighed at the sight of the sky above her growing dark, knowing that she'd just missed the bus she usually caught home on Friday nights and was therefore going to have to wait around for a while before another one came past.
She decided it was probably a good thing, really, because it meant that she could at least see the Doctor one last time before their big break over the weekend. The only problem with that was that, even in the minimal light, she could tell that the Doctor wasn't sitting on his blue bench for once.
She looked around, wondering where he could have shuffled off to and why, not to mention worrying that maybe it hadn't been completely his choice to leave; the police or even some thug looking for a bit of trouble and a laugh could easily have 'moved him along' without his consent, even forcefully. Hoping he was all right, she turned to go wait at the bus stop instead, but she was promptly caught around the waist and yanked back into a large body that was obviously not the Doctor's.
"Rosey! Been waitin' for you, baby."
Great. Rose didn't even have to twist around to recognise that voice.
"Oi, get off, Jimmy."
He laughed hard enough that he swayed and nearly fell over, though at least he let go of Rose in the process. "'S'exactly why I'm 'ere Rosey! C'mon back t' mine with me. I can show you a rrreeeaal good time, 'member?"
"Ugh, are you seriously this drunk already?" Rose said, disgusted. "What is it? Five after eight?"
"Late 'nough to start havin' a li'l fun," Jimmy said, grabbing for her again.
"Not a chance. Hey, stop that!"
Rose struggled with him, having spent enough time looking after him when he was drunk to know that if she could only manage dump him unceremoniously onto the ground, he'd probably be stunned enough to wake up to himself a little and would end up deciding it was too much effort and wander off. He could be a mean drunk, but at least he was quickly distracted.
In this case, it wasn't quite quickly enough for her tastes, though. Rose shoved at him as he groped her chest. Seconds later – and clearly not because of anything to do with her own relatively weak shoves – Jimmy was propelled clear across into the front of the Henrik's building, making the glass he landed against shake heavily in its place. Having lost contact with the body she'd been thrashing against, Rose staggered backwards slightly, but her elbow was caught lightly in a familiar grip and she was able to steady herself.
The Doctor practically loomed over her with a thunderous expression on his face. She was unbelievably thankful that it was directed at Jimmy rather than at her, because frankly... it was terrifying. Rose remembered a long-since forgotten rant from her mother about how dangerously unstable people who lived under park benches or in gutters or the like could be. For the first time, she really thought there might be a chance that her Mum could've had a point about that after all.
The Doctor had always seemed innocuous, but appearances could obviously be deceiving. He'd certainly looked far too skinny to possibly have enough upper body strength to have just tossed a much larger man like that, Rose thought. Sure, Jimmy had far too many beers soaking his decidedly minimal brain matter right then to have been able to stand against even a medium push – Rose thought she could certainly have taken him herself if only she'd been able to get a bit of leverage – but that window had nearly broken. Rose knew from being forced to spend a whole day washing the inside of the Henrik's display windows once that that glass was thick.
"Imma getchoo for tha'," Jimmy slurred as he picked himself up again. He staggered, not looking entirely sure where the intended victim of his threats was even located.
"If facing down the assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn't intimidate me," the Doctor rumbled in a barely recognisable voice, "then I doubt some drunk delinquent whose biggest claim to fame is probably receiving an ASBO is going to be able to manage it. You could try it if you think that what you really want to do, but I really wouldn't. I'll warn you, I've killed before."
Rose shivered. For once in this kind of situation, she wasn't particularly worried about Jimmy's tendency to beat people into a pulp when he'd had a few. She was at that stage far more concerned that the Doctor was obviously not in the right frame of mind to prevent himself from doing something he'd regret if Jimmy pushed him.
"Go home, Jimmy," Rose ordered, pointedly stepping in between the two of them. "Go sleep it off before you get yourself into way more trouble than you can handle."
Jimmy hissed something to himself, but he did thankfully slowly drag himself off to lick his wounds.
"Are you all right?" the Doctor asked her, now sounding much more like his usual self. He reached for her, but Rose subtly ducked away.
"I... yeah," she said, trying to disguise the tremor of her voice. "I'm fine. That was just my ex, is all. He's a bit of an idiot, but he's never actually hurt me. No problem."
The Doctor pointedly stepped forward and touched a tender spot on her wrist where Jimmy had been holding it too tight. "Never hurt you, eh?"
"Funny, I'm having trouble believing you?"
Rose looked away, not wanting to meet his eyes. "Fine, yeah, I'll fess up to bein' an idiot when I was with him, but not that much of an idiot. I wasn't about to go in for domestic violence without somethin' to say about it. He did hurt other people, though, so I eventually figured out that he was all kinds of rubbish and I dropped him. I've hardly even seen him around since. All right?"
"Oh really?" the Doctor asked. "It was all that simply? Then why make excuses for him? And what about that 'Rickey' you mentioned the other day? Let me guess: he's never hurt you either."
"Oi, his name's Mickey," Rose spat, "and where're you even gettin' that from? That's crazy. He's nothin' like Jimmy. He's always been a good bloke."
The Doctor scoffed, "I'm sure. And I bet you'd just come right out and say if he was knocking you around, wouldn't you? Obviously I'm going to have to have a bit of a talk with Mickey the Idiot –"
"No you won't!" Rose interrupted. "You can't just muck about with my boyfriend, or my ex-boyfriend for that matter, like you're some over-protective mob boss father or somethin'. Hey, seein' as how you seem to be the one goin' around more or less threatenin' people, maybe I should be more worried about gettin' that kind of treatment from you, huh?"
"I don't go out of my way to hurt people, but I'll do what I have to so I can be sure you're safe!"
"Stop it!" Rose shouted over the top of his last few words, not wanting to hear any more of it. Her voice echoed around the street, and she saw two women walking a little further down turn and look inquisitively at her. She waved tiredly at them to signal that she was fine and they didn't need to worry. Then she lowered her voice as she ordered, "Stop actin' like this. It's not you."
Rose remembered the chilling way he'd said 'I've killed before', though, and had to wonder whether this really was him after all. How the hell did she know whether he meant he'd killed people in his delusions, where it had never really happened, or whether he'd done it right here, in reality? And did it really matter either way, when he obviously believed he'd done it? She'd known he had a seriously troubled past, but she'd always presumed he was as much a victim as whoever he'd clearly lost along the way because that was how he'd acted. Clearly there was more to him than that.
"That guy was threatening you," the Doctor said, now much more calmly, "and I'm protecting you. Did you actually expect me to do anything else when you were being hurt like that?"
Rose shot back, "Oh, who honestly knows? Maybe I'm just now figurin' out that I haven't got the first clue what to expect from you. I don't even know you, really."
"Of course you do," he responded, suddenly no longer appearing dangerous in the slightest, not even quietly so. Instead, he just looked hurt. "I've told you more about myself than I have anyone else I've met in years."
Rose laughed bitterly. "Yeah? Is that really right? Because I dunno anymore. You've told me crazy alien theories that I don't even know for absolute certain whether you truly believe or not, and then there's you goin' all Incredible Hulk on Jimmy... Are you on drugs? I've heard angel dust can do that sort of thing. I mean, I didn't think you were the type, when you've always acted like this nice guy, but how'm I honestly s'posed to know what of everythin' I've seen is real here? Or if any of it's real, even?"
"I have to go," she said, seeing her bus approaching in the distance. She'd call the timing convenient, except that she'd have much preferred it to have arrived a good fifteen minutes or so earlier and allowed her to avoid having a reason to flee in the first place.
"I'm sorry," the Doctor said. "I'm so sorry. I only wanted to help."
"I know," Rose agreed. "I do. I just... I can't be here right now, all right? I have to think. And be elsewhere while I do that," she added pointedly.
She could feel him watching her climb onto the bus after it came to a stop, and she just knew that there wasn't a trace of that prior darkness in his eyes now. It had been fully replaced with that expression that made him look like a sad little puppy, and seeing that right now would undoubtedly make Rose feel like she was the one who'd kicked him and made him that way.
She supposed she was, at that. She'd never seen anyone else make him look sad. But then, it occurred to her that she'd never seen anyone else make him look particularly happy, either.
She shook her head and slumped into a seat, pointedly not looking out the window as the bus pulled away.
She distantly remembered a time not so long ago when her life had just been boring, before she'd had to worry about whether something terrible was happening to someone she cared about because he was alone on the streets in the middle of the night or, now, whether he was possibly doing something terrible himself. She almost wished she could go back to that time.
At least then she thought she wouldn't feel this painful indecision.